Dehradun: Former Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat will lead the Congress’s campaign for the upcoming Assembly polls — but isn’t confirmed as the CM candidate, according to leaders who met former Congress president Rahul Gandhi Friday.
The central leadership will take a final call on the chief minister’s post after the election, the leaders said.
Rahul met a group of senior Uttarakhand Congress leaders and the All India Congress Committee (AICC) Uttarakhand in-charge, Devender Yadav, Friday. This comes amid controversy after Rawat appeared to criticise the party leadership in a series of tweets Wednesday and his advisor made allegations against Yadav.
According to the leaders, Rahul said he’d made it clear that Rawat would lead the election campaign from the front, and all others — including Yadav — were to give him their full support. However, Rahul stopped short of announcing Rawat as the party’s CM face.
Rahul claimed the meeting had put a lid on the controversy created by Rawat’s tweets, the leaders said.
Deepika Pandey Singh, the AICC state co-in-charge, told ThePrint, “We had a long meeting with Rahul Gandhi. Everybody spoke to him in detail and tried to clear their doubts and issues. He has instructed all of us that the campaign will be led by Harish Rawat and we will all support him.”
When asked about the chief minister’s post, Singh said, “It has been answered by Harish Rawat himself. The Congress president will take a final call on the CM after the elections. It’s at the central leadership’s discretion.” She also said the issues raised by Rawat were resolved.
‘Everything is normal now’
Rahul had summoned the AICC state in-charge, his deputy and senior Uttarakhand party leaders for an urgent meeting in the aftermath of Rawat’s tweets, which have been seen as opening a front against Yadav and his faction in the state organisation.
Without naming Yadav, Rawat had tweeted that he had to “swim across the sea of electoral battle”, but representatives of the leaders on whose orders he had to swim were trying to bind his hands and feet. He further wrote that the “organisation, instead of extending its hands in support, is either turning its face away or playing a negative role”.
Besides Rawat, Yadav, and Singh, the leaders present included Uttarakhand PCC president Ganesh Godiyal, leader of the opposition in the Assembly Pritam Singh and party MLAs Govind Singh Kunjwal, Qazi Nizamuddin, and Karan Mahara. Other than Pritam Singh, most of these leaders are considered Rawat loyalists in the faction-ridden Uttarakhand Congress.
Yashpal Arya — a former cabinet minister in the current Pushkar Singh Dhami-led BJP government in the state who defected to the Congress a couple of months ago — also attended the meeting.
Arya, a Congress veteran who had left the party and joined the BJP on being disenchanted with Rawat’s leadership in 2017, told ThePrint, “All doubts and ambiguity that had cropped up a couple of days earlier, after Harish Rawat’s tweets, have been resolved after today’s meeting with Rahul Gandhi. Everything is normal now.”
Arya said that Rahul first spoke to each leader individually, and his final views were conveyed to everyone together in a meeting headed by AICC general secretary K.C. Venugopal.
Speaking to ThePrint, Kunjwal said, “Harish Rawat was left with no option after the AICC in-charge tried to sideline him in all organisational activities. However, it was a fruitful meeting with Rahul Gandhi today, and all the vexing issues as to elections have been sorted out. We have all been asked by Rahul Gandhi to coordinate with Harish Rawat, and we have agreed unanimously with his decision. Its results will be seen soon.”
(Edited by Rohan Manoj)